*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: Dropout, Is University Really Worth It?, and Saving Lives at Sea in World War II

28 March 2024

BBC / 20th Television / Beth Dubber

Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) in Dropout (from Tuesday 19 February)

Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) in Dropout (from Tuesday 19 February)

PASSIONTIDE is well served (for want of programmes actually referring to the Christian religion) by BBC1’s screening of Disney+’s Dropout (from Tuesday 19 February) as a penitential spotlight on the depths of human deceit, greed, and cupidity. Its many glossy episodes tell the true, although probably souped-up, story of Elizabeth Holmes: brilliant, charismatic, gorgeous, and driven by overweening ambition.

This inexorable moral descent, US-style, starts with fanatical application and hard work, and the breakthrough big idea on which her fortune will be built. Scared of needles and appalled by the preventable deaths caused by lack of an early diagnosis, she determines to produce a simple machine that will, from a single drop of blood, make hundreds of tests.

It’s a mission to help people, to change the work for good — and she fires up wealthy supporters to back her with start-up millions to build a crack team of visionary scientists. Her charisma is exactly what people want to see — a beautiful young woman challenging the grey suits of corporate biotech, proof that America is great — and she persuades more and more famous names to endorse her and supply huge financial backing.

Unfortunately, it’s all built on lies. Their machine simply doesn’t work; when eventually rolled out to the in-store “wellness centres” that will revolutionise healthcare, it’s actually a competitor’s, dishonestly pirated and providing lethally inaccurate results. The company morphs inexorably from social vision to paranoid secrecy, brutal security. She becomes cruel and vindictive, sacking, ruining, and destroying loyal colleagues: everything is sacrificed on the altar of ruthless ambition. Hollowed out, she presents an ever brighter exterior, more and more a brittle shell to hide a void of terror. One immediate moral triumph is that it cauterises any envy that we might have for the billionaire lifestyle of private jets and cut-throat business deals.

Ms Holmes’s story — rather than delay becoming rich, she dropped out of Stanford — provides a wry comment on Is University Really Worth It? (BBC2, Monday 11 March). The comedian and former English teacher Geoff Norcott challenged the ambition that he had fostered in his own students — and found today’s UK higher education sadly lacking. His critical thesis chimed with our Government’s: the purpose of a degree is make you wealthier.

How appalling, I thought. Whatever happened to liberal universities, and the pursuit of knowledge to broaden every horizon? But, as we heard about today’s actual reality — online lectures, little face time with tutors, the business model that crams in fee-paying students and cuts unprofitable courses — I began to change my mind. I should have trained as a plumber.

Thank heaven for the series Saving Lives at Sea in World War II (BBC2, Tuesdays) and its inspiring evidence of heroic service, as the RNLI crew willingly put themselves at mortal risk to help save others.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)